Fetal assault bill gets first-round approval in Nebraska

Bill would allow criminal charges to be brought against anyone who harms a fetus in "any stage" of development.

Published January 23, 2006 5:26PM (EST)

The Nebraska Legislature last week voted 39-1 to give first-round approval to a bill that would make it a crime to harm an "unborn child."

Passage of the bill would mean that anyone who intentionally harmed a fetus would face 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, and that accidental injury to a fetus -- including during the commission of another crime like robbery, assault or drunken driving -- would be considered criminal assault. What's scary is the language used to define the crime victim as "an individual member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development in utero." The bill is being sponsored by state Sen. Mike Foley. Its chief opponent, state Sen. Ernie Chambers, led a filibuster against it, called it "sheer nincompoopery" and pointed out that the bill's language of "bodily harm" could not possibly apply to a human zygote, which does not have a body.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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